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Dental Senescence in a Long-Lived Primates Links infant Survival to Rainfall
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2005)
  • Laurie Godfrey, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
  • S. J King
  • S. J Arrigo-Nealson
  • S. T Pochron
  • G. M Semprebon
  • P C Wright
  • J. Jernvall
Primates tend to be long-lived, and, except for humans, most primate females are able to reproduce into old age. Although aging in most mammals is accompanied by dental senescence due to advanced wear, primates have low-crowned teeth that wear down before old age. Because tooth wear alters crown features gradually, testing whether early dental senescence causes reproductive senescence has been difficult. To identify whether and when low-crowned teeth compromise reproductive success, we used a 20-year field study of Propithecus edwardsi, a rainforest lemur from Madagascar with a maximum lifespan of >27 years. We analyzed tooth wear in three dimensions with dental topographic analysis by using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology. We report that tooth wear exposes compensatory shearing blades that maintain dental function for 18 years. Beyond this age, female fertility remains high; however infants survive only if lactation seasons have elevated rainfall. Therefore, low-crowned teeth accommodate wear to a point, after which reproductive success closely tracks environmental fluctuations. These results suggest a tooth wear-determined, but rainfall-mediated, onset of reproductive senescence. Additionally, our study indicates that even subtle changes in climate may affect reproductive success of rainforest species.
Publication Date
Publisher Statement
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0508377102
Citation Information
Laurie Godfrey, S. J King, S. J Arrigo-Nealson, S. T Pochron, et al.. "Dental Senescence in a Long-Lived Primates Links infant Survival to Rainfall" Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Vol. 102 Iss. 46 (2005)
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